Last weekend I enjoyed a great performance of Brahms’ 4th Symphony with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. This weekend, I was treated to a great performance of Brahms’ 3rd Symphony by the Westerville Symphony Orchestra. I’m still looking for a performance of Brahms’ 2nd for this next weekend to continue my Brahms symphonic trend!
Playing at the Fritsche Theatre in Cowan Hall at Otterbein University, the Westerville Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson, performed its first Masterworks concert of the 2013-2014 season. On the program were two terrific pieces of music:
Brahms, Symphony No. 3 in F Major, op. 90
Chopin, Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, op. 11- featuring Nick Ross on the piano
The Brahms was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but the Chopin…was amazing!
Jennifer Hambrick from WOSA, Classical 101, came out before the concert started to tell us a little bit about the music we were about to hear. While talking about the Brahms, she challenged us to tap our feet during the first movement to see how well we could keep up since Brahms got a little bit creative there with his time signatures.
I kept up ok for a while but then gave up because listening to the music was infinitely more fun than concentrating on my foot tapping. It was a bit of a challenge, keeping those threes in line. As an audience member though, I was happy to leave the work to the musicians on stage!
I’m pretty sure I hadn’t heard Brahms’ 3rd symphony before and I have none of his symphonies in my music library, so I didn’t yet know what to expect. That said, I noticed the 3rd movement sounded somewhat familiar, so I’ve probably heard that on the radio. The 4th movement was especially enjoyable.
I liked it all, it was very well-played, but the 4th movement definitely stands out as my favorite!
And then they played Chopin
Saturday’s program included one of Chopin’s two piano concerti: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Opus 11, masterfully played by pianist and Otterbein Professor, Dr. Nicholas Ross. Like the Brahms, I hadn’t heard this piece before either, but it – was – magnificent!
Wow. Dr. Ross was so good!
He played so well, can you imagine what an inspiration that performance was to his students? I wonder if someone recorded it because I would love to hear it again.
OK, I could continue gushing about Saturday’s performance – especially of the Chopin – but I think that at this stage, you know I think! Suffice to say, this performance of the Chopin totally made up for my disappointment with last week’s soloist for the Rachmaninoff.
Like the rest of the audience, I was immediately on my feet upon completion of the Rondo – Vivace moment. After a couple of curtain calls, Dr. Ross came back and treated us to an encore. No idea what it was, but it sure sounded good!
Well done, Westerville Symphony! Well done!
The Westerville Symphony’s next Masterworks concert will be after the New Year on March 29 back up at Otterbein. They’ll be playing Jon Deak’s Condominiums on the Hot Stove (Home on the Range!) as well as…
• Mendelssohn, Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op.21
• Haydn, Symphony No. 94 in G Major (“Surprise”)
• Prokofiev, Suite from Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60
If you’d like to see them sooner, you’re in luck! They have a concert, Sounds of the Season, on Saturday, December 14. Hard to believe that’s less than two months away!
- Must See Classical Music in Columbus (giocosity.com)
- The Brahmsian Orchestra at its best: Philharmonia Brahms cycle continues with Van Steen 13/10/13 (gslaterwalker.wordpress.com)
- Westerville Symphony Concert (giocosity.com)
- Westerville Symphony: Practice Review (giocosity.com)
- Rachmaninoff and Brahms (giocosity.com)
- Classical music Q&A: What makes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 so great? French pianist Philippe Bianconi discusses his upcoming performances of it this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Plus, the memorial performances for singer Ilona Kombrink a (welltempered.wordpress.com)
Columbus, Ohio is a city filled with arts organizations and for those of us interested in listening to classical music, it provides us with a wealth of options. The classical music concert season is starting in the next few weeks and whether you’re a veteran of going to see the symphony or looking to venture out for the first time, I’ve put together a list of what I think are some must-see concerts.
For those of you who might be new symphony goers, the classical music concert season follows the school year, so it starts in the fall a few weeks into football season and goes through collegiate finals weeks in May. After that, it usually takes a few weeks off before starting the summer pops season. Plenty of music – all year long!
This is not an all-encompassing list – heck, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra has 15 classical music series concerts this year alone – but it does offer up a nice sampling of things to try in the coming months. Check this out – there’s something for everybody. Maybe we’ll even see each other at some of these. I sure hope so because there’s some great music on upcoming programs and the musicians are fabulous!
Mahler’s Symphony #2 – Resurrection – Friday, October 5. at the Ohio Theatre
Includes the Columbus Symphony orchestra playing alongside the Columbus Symphony Chorus. Canadian soprano Dominique LaBelle, who sang at last year’s season opener of Beethoven’s 9th, will again be one of the soloists. And if you thought Beethoven’s 9th was good, you shouldn’t miss this! Be sure to listen for the French horns!
Beethoven’s 5th – Friday/Saturday, November 15-16 at the Ohio Theatre
Who didn’t love the movie Immortal Beloved with Gary Oldman as Ludwig von Beethoven? Everyone recognizes his well-known 5th Symphony – heard anywhere from in the movie to the Google Chrome commercials and by everyone else who marks a dramatic moment by singing these four notes: DA DA DA DAAAAAAAA!
Rhapsody in Blue – Saturday, February 8 at the Ohio Theatre
Want a chance to hear that fabulous clarinet glissando at the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue? Here’s your chance – in an evening of nothing but music by George Gershwin. One of the premier interpreters of Gershwin, pianist Peter Nero plays a variety of music such as Rhapsody in Blue, S’Wonderful, Someone to Watch Over Me, etc. I bet that if you close your eyes, you’ll even be able to picture Gene Kelly singing and dancing!
Mozart’s Requiem – Friday/Saturday, April 11-12 at the Ohio Theatre
Speaking of movies, Mozart’s Requiem, left unfinished at the time of his death in 1791, but later finished by one of his students, is probably (in this writer’s humble opinion) the most beautiful piece of music ever written in the entire history of man. (No pressure, CSO!) It was the piece of music depicted at the end of the 1984 movie Amadeus that was being dictated by a very sick Mozart to an awed Antonio Salieri. Whether what happened on film was really true doesn’t matter as it’s a beautiful beautiful beautiful piece of music that you should see performed live if you possibly can.
Not enough Mozart for you? Never fear – there are two other concerts earlier in the season (November and February) that also feature his music.
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor - Saturday/Sunday, November 9-10 at the Southern Theatre
Violinist Vadim Gluzman, who played the Alban Berg violin concerto with the CSO last May, is back to play one of Felix Mendelssohn’s most famous pieces. While it gets a lot of play time on the radio, a live performance should not be missed!
Mozart Mass in C-Minor – Saturday/Sunday, February 22,23 at the Pontifical College Josephinum/Southern Theatre
Not to keep referring to movies, but if you have the Amadeus soundtrack, then you’re familiar with the Kyrie from this mass by W.A. Mozart, featuring soprano, Felicity Lott. In the movie, it was in the scene when Mozart’s wife took some of his music to Maestro Salieri and was being played at the point he dropped all the manuscripts on the floor because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Beautiful! This live version features the Lancaster Chorale under the direction of newly appointed music director, David Danzmayr.
Madama Butterfly – Friday/Sunday, November 22, 24 at the Southern Theatre
Puccini’s most beloved opera about how a Japanese maiden falls in love with an American Naval officer. Originally a flop when premiered in Milan back in 1904 it has since become one of the most highly performed operas around the world. Featuring Priti Ghandi as Cio-Cio San and Harold Meers as Pinkerton, this is performed in collaboration with the Ohio State University.
The Pirates of Penzance – Saturday/Sunday, March 8-9 at the Southern Theatre
Considered “light opera,” this Gilbert and Sullivan work features the character, Frederic, who is mistakenly apprenticed to the pirates through his 21st birthday – something made more challenging because of his having been born on February 29th! With a constant theme of duty, everything works out in the end with this fun story.
Swan Lake – October 18-20 at the Ohio Theatre, October 25-27 at the Aranoff Theatre
Tchaikovsky’s beautiful ballet about a princess who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse only able to return to life as a princess if a prince swears his love to her.
The Nutcracker – December 12-24 at the Ohio Theatre
Don’t miss an opportunity to see Clara and her Nutcracker prince for yet another wonderful Tchaikovsky ballet. With two weeks’ worth of performances, there’s a chance for everyone to see one!
Twelfth Night – Saturday/Sunday, January 4-5 at the First Congregational Church
The Early Interval will perform music from the 12th -17th centuries in France, Italy, Spain and North Africa on traditional instruments such as the recorder, bass dulcian, crumhorns, medieval lute, chitarone, rebecs, violin and pipe and tabor. Don’t know what some of those are? No worries. Neither do I, but I look forward to finding out in this celebration of music marking the end of the Christmas season and welcoming in the new year.
Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 1 – Saturday, May 10 at Fritsche Theatre in Cowan Hall – Otterbein University
Didn’t get enough of the high seas with the Pirates of Penzance? Great! This symphony is actually titled “A Sea Symphony: A Song for All Seas, All Ships” and has text from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” It will be performed next spring along with vocalists from a variety of choral ensembles at Otterbein University.
Dvorak Quintet in A Major, Op 81 – Saturday, November 16 at the Southern Theatre
The Pacifica Quartet plays along with pianist Marc-André Hamelin, who played just beautifully last year with the CSO. They’ll be performing quintets by Shostakovich, Dvorak and Ornstein.
Ravel and Mozart – Saturday, January 18 at the Southern Theatre
The Escher String Quartet will be playing Ravel’s quartet in F Major, Mozart’s Quartet in G Major, K.387 and Ainsi la Nuit by Henri Dutilleux.
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – Sunday, October 13 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts
If you didn’t get to see the 9th, Ode to Joy, last year with the CSO, then don’t miss your chance to see it next month in New Albany, OH with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, featuring the Capital University Chapel Choir.
Looking for some great Christmas music? Most of these ensembles offer up some great music sometime in December that allows for audience participation and enjoyment. Don’t worry, I’ll post it all later on, but between various pops concerts, the Nutcracker and more traditional music, I promise you’ll have plenty of options. If you’d like, you can go ahead and get a head start by checking out their complete schedules linked above.
French Horn Week – coming up the week of September 23-27 here on Giocosity!
On Tuesday’s post about the Westerville Symphony concert, I mentioned that I’d written a practice concert review so a review website could see how I write. I’d never written a review before and probably won’t again. They said I didn’t have sufficient musical education background in order to write reviews for them. I wasn’t critical enough about the music itself. No problem, because it’s true. I don’t and I probably wasn’t. I told them that in advance, but I tried it out anyway and they were good enough to read what I wrote. (And very nice in their response)
I went ahead and Emailed what I’d written to two people at the Westerville Symphony, one of whom asked if I’d be willing to post my review publicly.
While Monday’s post was just a “Hey – I went to a great concert, this is what I thought” kind of post, this is the actual (practice) review that I wrote about it.
Concert review: Westerville Symphony
Venue: Alum Creek Park Amphitheater
Date: Sunday, August 11 6:30PM
On the last night of the City of Westerville’s Sounds of Summer free concert series, the Westerville Symphony, under the leadership of Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson, took us on a musical journey that spanned from New York to Russia. Included in the program were pieces by Copland, Wagner, Khachaturian, Chabrier and Tchaikovsky. Concert-goers enjoyed picnics on the lawn of the outdoor amphitheater in Alum Creek Park right off the Otterbein University’s campus in Westerville, Ohio.
WOSU’s Jennifer Hambrick opened the evening by describing all the music we were about to hear after which she introduced Maestro Wilson and the concert began.
Despite its originally having been debuted indoors at the High School for Music and Arts in New York City, our outdoor concert appropriately started with Aaron Copland’s An Outdoor Overture. The orchestra joined what started off with a trumpet solo for a joyous rendition of this lively piece. The xylophone was especially good and along with the rest of the percussion section added just the right touch to make this version so enjoyable.
Though not until after it was performed, Maestro Wilson told us of a conversation he’d had with the late Adolph “Bud” Herseth, longtime principal trumpet player for the Chicago Symphony. When asked what the most difficult trumpet solo was to play, Mr. Herseth immediately responded with, “the Rienzi Overture”.
In Richard Wagner’s Rienzi’s Overture, the trumpet starts the piece with one soft, sustained, very exposed note that is out there for all to hear. The tone must be perfect as there is no room for error.
Principal trumpet player, Richard Scranton, nailed it!
Later, the cellos and basses had an almost haunting tone through the buildup to the melody. Towards the end, the march portion really appealed to the audience – especially to the small child in front of me who pretended she was conducting the orchestra! She did a pretty good job of keeping the beat, too! Future Maestro, perhaps?
We soon moved eastward to Russia where we learned that composers such as Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky left their home country of Russia because of revolution and war. Armenian-born Aram Khachaturian, while still allowing the folk music of his native Armenia to influence his compositions, was able to make his living in the Soviet Union learning to navigate his work within the expectations of the Stalinist regime.
We were treated to three of the five movements from his Masquerade Suite, originally written in 1941 as “incidental music” to Michael Lermentov’s play of the same name. Maestro Wilson started with the Waltz at a rather upbeat tempo, a refreshing and far more enjoyable version than slower recordings I’d previously heard. From there he moved on to the Nocturne with a beautifully-played solo by concertmaster Erin Gilliland. Finally, the set concluded with the Galop with all its happy-go-lucky, yet funky, dissonant chords which showed off the talent of the winds section.
Next up was Emmanuel Chabrier’s rendition of a Spanish Jota, Of his España Rhapsody for Orchestra, critics of his day wrote that he composed Spanish music better than actual Spanish composers. Ever humble, Chabrier responded by saying it was a “piece in F and nothing more.” The cellos and basses along with the percussion section again made it sound like so much more!
Closing the concert was my favorite piece of the evening: Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien. Opening again with the trumpet that brought with it the rest of the brass with the timpani, it transitioned to some nice, crisp duet and trio work with the oboe, bassoon and clarinet. Even the harp made a lovely impression. The strings played at such a quick, almost frenetic, pace, yet at the same time, maintained the clarity needed to perform this piece well.
After the last note sounded, the audience gave the orchestra a well-deserved standing ovation.
On a side note, one of my favorite aspects of the evening was when Maestro Wilson spoke to us in between numbers telling stories and anecdotes along the way. He did such a wonderful job interacting with the audience, especially when a mom had to grab her son trying to climb on stage. The Maestro joked how the little toddler just wanted to be in the next generation of trumpet players!
How could he not with such great role models on stage?
Overall I found the Westerville Symphony was an absolute joy to listen to and the venue was just perfect for all the families there listening to some fantastic music on a beautiful Sunday evening.
The Westerville Symphony starts its next Masterworks season on Saturday, October 19, where it will perform Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op 90 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 in E Minor, Op. 11 featuring Nick Ross on the Piano. For more information about their 2013-2014 schedule, visit their website at www.westervillesymphony.org.
So what do you think? :-)
- Westerville Symphony Concert (giocosity.com)
Sunday night, I had the pleasure of hearing – for the first time ever – the Westerville Symphony, under the direction of Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson. If his name sounds familiar, it should! He’s one of the associate conductors with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as well as the Music Director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. He also conducts the Ballet Met as well as, of all places, the Tulsa Ballet.
Outside of the US, he’s guest-conducted as far away as China! Of course, his bio says he’s a wine enthusiast, so if he’s smart, he’ll get a guest-conducting gig with the Strasbourg Philharmonic. Not only is the orchestra very good, but there are some great Alsatian wines out there – especially the rieslings. (Just trying to help you out, Maestro!)
Other than visiting some of the venues within Otterbein itself when my cousin, Cameron, performed as a student there, I had no idea this charming amphitheater even existed. Yes – I know. I should get out more. (I’m working on that!) This was a great place for an evening of music – bring your lawn chairs and your dinner and you’re all set for a great evening!
Last week, I was approached by someone at the website Bachtrack about writing reviews for them. Me? Write reviews? I had to giggle when they asked for my CV showing my musical education background. Um. I don’t actually have a musical education background. I have degrees in French and HR – not exactly shining examples of a music background though I did play piano and was in the marching band through college. Still have your doubts? That’s ok. I did, too.
I’m talking with them and agreed to write a practice review, so here’s my perfect opportunity. In preparation, I Emailed the Westerville Symphony for a list of what was being played and read about the pieces in advance. I also listened to them on YouTube to have an idea of what they sounded like.
Copland: An Outdoor Overture
Wagner: Rienzi’s Overture
Khachaturian: Masquerade Suite
Chabrier: España Rhapsody for Orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Capriccio Italien
My first thought? Yuck. I didn’t know any of these pieces and romantic and 20th century are my two least favorite eras of music. They each have exceptions and have beautiful music, but overall, I much prefer anything Beethoven and earlier. That’s all right though. I buy season tickets with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra so that I can get my Mozart fix but also to expose myself to new (to me) music. So my second thought? GREAT! Besides, I’d never seen Maestro Wilson conduct before, so what a great opportunity.
WOSU’s Jennifer Hambrick started off the evening with an introduction and background of the music we were about to hear. If you’re unfamiliar with Ms. Hambrick, download the app for WOSU Classical 101 and listen to her between 10-2pm. This lady is a walking, talking encyclopedia of classical music knowledge. She has a great radio voice, too, and when she talks about pieces of music, she just oozes knowledge yet at the same time, makes it the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard. (She also writes the reviews in the Dispatch for the CSO concerts, so yeah – she definitely knows her stuff.)
OK. I was ready for this. I’d studied. She started off talking about Copland’s overture which he’s originally written for a high school in New York City. No problem. Right there with you. After a couple of composers she just blew me out of the water. As the farmer on the Geico commercial would say, “Dagnabit!” Hey – I lasted through Copland and Chabrier. That was pretty good, right? :-) (Right?)
I didn’t hate the Khachaturian!
The concert itself was wonderful and the musicians did a great job performing. I didn’t know what to expect, so I was happily impressed! At least three pieces started with the trumpet giving principal trumpet player Richard Scranton lots of solo opportunities. He did a great job and definitely earned his keep!
My two favorite pieces were probably the first and the last. In the Copland, the percussion made the whole piece. Loved the xylophone and the rest of the percussionists were fabulous, too. What a fun piece – and to think it was originally written for a high school band? Wow! As for the Tchaikovsky piece, the strings got quite a workout with that one and sounded terrific. That was probably my favorite!
Under normal circumstances, I’m not usually a huge Wagner fan. Part of why I don’t like his era is because the music seems so heavy and overbearing. It’s as if they compose music with the idea of giving literally every musician in town something to play all at the same time. The orchestras are huge. Give me early music or a chamber orchestra any day and I’m happy! That said, Rienzi’s overture, with the initial trumpet solo that Mr. Scranton nailed, was – as Jennifer Hambrick called it “Wagner before he became Wagner!” In my notes, I wrote “I really like this piece!” It was lovely and even the little girl in front of me was conducting the orchestra! She kept a good beat, too. I was impressed!
Khatchaturian – I thought I’d hate it. I really did – even after listening to the waltz twice in preparation, I wasn’t thrilled. I told my mom ahead of time when we listened to the waltz together, that it sounded like straight, generic, Soviet music that you either have to like or if not, be taken to some gulag in Siberia. Ugh. Actually, part of it was reminiscent of the musical Chess.
Well I’ll be darned if Maestro Wilson didn’t up the tempo a bit to make it sound so much nicer. It’s amazing how a change in tempo can really improve a piece of music. Don’t get me wrong – it can ruin it, too, but in this case, it made me feel like I was listening to something completely different than what I’d listened to online, and this time, I liked it!
After the waltz, they played two more of the five movements including the nocturne. Concertmaster Erin Gilliland did a wonderful job with her solo. It was beautifully played. Finally, the Galop was played. Still a definite “Soviet-style, in your face” kind of march, but the funky dissonance in the chords were actually pretty fun. Plus, it made for a great opportunity to show off the wind section. Always great to hear the clarinets!
Dad told me Sunday morning that he liked a lot of Chabrier’s music. What’s this? Dad – you raised me yet you’ve never mentioned Chabrier! Sure I know all about J.S. Bach (LOVE Bach!), but I’d never heard of Chabrier before. His España Rhapsody was nice and had more great percussion in it. Heck in his day, they said that he, a French composer, wrote Spanish music better than Spanish composers! OH SNAP!
Chabrier basically responded to that with a big, “Whatever. It’s in the key of F – no biggie.” Clearly that’s paraphrased, but it’s not actually off by much!
Alum Creek Park Amphitheater
What a great venue!. I’m so glad I now know where it is so I can come back for more concerts. I loved how people just brought their own lawn chairs with their dinners and wine and popcorn – just like the CSO’s Picnic With the Pops downtown. I’d already had dinner but happily brought my dessert with me along with plenty of water. Ugh – that sun was hot! It finally dipped below the tree line somewhere in the middle of the Khachaturian suite.
This was the couple in front of me. I thought this was a pretty sweet picture!
The Westerville Symphony was really good. They start playing again in October on the Otterbein Campus. I definitely think I’ll be hearing them again.
- Westerville Symphony: Practice Review (giocosity.com)